Saturday, 30 November 2013

Seething Wells PI: summing up with additional comments on ecology

Project model indicating 'nature reserve'
Yesterday was the final day of the Inquiry at Surrey County Hall. There is a good write up here http://www.surreycomet.co.uk/news

The summing up by the QC said that this is a case of the 'Emperor's New Clothes, the naked truth (about the proposal) is more mundane. This is a development of 64 homes, marina, car parking etc with ANCILLARY provision of open space, with what is LEFT after that provision'.

He stated that the appellants failed to analyse the reasons for the site designations and all previous Inspectors rulings (UDP, Inquiry etc) had been ignored.

Whilst public access is an aspiration for this site the QC asked 'why should the site be sacrificed on an altar to provide this benefit' it is desirable not required and not sufficient to compromise the MOL policy designation. 

He clarified the council's position on ecology (not contested by the council in this Inquiry) who said that it was agreed that there would be an impact on ecology but the 'net impact on ecology was acceptable'. What was not agreed, was that the scheme would enhance the ecology as claimed by the ecologist acting for the appellants.

The closing statement can be read on the council's website. However it is not possible to read the appellants closing statement as they do not wish anyone to see it.

The appellants ecologist said that it was unlikely that grass snakes had colonised from Home Park, as the river was too busy to swim and the river wall was too high for them to climb. Yet this species is known to swim at sea and frequently encountered on our busiest waterways (Norfolk Broads) according to the reptile and amphibian recorder for the London Natural History Society. There is in fact NO river wall alongside the moorings at Filter Bed 7, which provides a perfect grassy bank necessary for the purchase of reptilian colonists from the LB Richmond side of the river.

The appellants made facetious remarks responding to evidence given at the Inquiry that cats introduced to the site will be predators of all the species the site proclaims to encourage. Restricting his comments to bats he said that 'whilst cats do predate bats, they would be unlikely to swim into the barge tunnel'. He obviously didn't think that bats would be likely to colonise the new so-called bat friendly features that will be installed across the site if the scheme receives approval.

It was stated that the bat found hibernating during 17.1.13 (see post of that date) was of no real consequence and Natural England would not consider this significant unless a greater number of bats were found on several occasions. So why did the consultants only undertake one hibernation survey, after temperatures had risen unseasonably early and bats had been active for over a week on the site? Why didn't they follow the Bat Conservation Trust survey guidelines, which states that at least two surveys should be undertaken during mid-January or mid-February.

The appellants claimed that the 218 light fittings (leading to a permanently raised light level across the dark areas of the site to 0.5 lux [except the end of the wharf]) would not 'vacuum' the insects away from foraging areas. He asserted that the 'flight to light' was characteristic of very few species and only from a short distance of 1-2 m away. He has obviously never undertaken moth trapping, which can attract moths from up to 500 m away from a trap. There is strict guidance on using traps on consecutive nights, due to the vacuum effect. 1-2 m from 218 lights, virtually covers the site in its entirety in any event.

The site visit will be held 11.12.13

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